At 81, she has been a nurse for almost all her life

Ms Monica Quek continued to take on ad hoc jobs after retirement. She returned to nursing as a part-timer five years ago.
Ms Monica Quek continued to take on ad hoc jobs after retirement. She returned to nursing as a part-timer five years ago.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

On Nurses' Day today, The Straits Times shines the spotlight on community nurses who care for people outside of the hospital - whether it is in nursing homes, senior activity centres or their own flats

With nearly 60 years of nursing experience under her belt, you can say that 81-year-old Monica Quek has seen it all.

She started out as a hospital nurse when she was just 20, then moved on to specialise in maternal and child health before joining the school health service team.

She was part of that team for 15 years before retiring at 54. Even then, she continued with various ad hoc nursing jobs until her daughter-in-law suddenly died of an aneurysm about 10 years ago.

Five years ago, she was back at work as a nurse at Pacific Healthcare Nursing Home in Redhill.

"I left nursing to help take care of my grandchildren, who were in primary school at that time," Ms Quek said.

One day, a church friend and fellow nurse asked if she would like to return to work.

 
 

Initially, she resisted the idea.

She recalled: "I said, 'I'm so old, who wants me?' They said to come and see. I said, 'I'm too old, I just want to go shopping' and they asked me, 'How much shopping can you do?'"

Ms Quek took up a part-time nursing position at the nursing home.

She works three days a week, starting at 8am when she gets patients ready for breakfast.

She helps them brush their teeth, takes their blood pressure and temperature, and also dresses any wounds that require attention.

Unlike in a hospital, she said, establishing good relationships with patients matters more because they stay for much longer.

"In the hospital, they stay for at most two weeks before they are discharged. But here, they stay for months," she said.

Sometimes, there are difficult patients who do not cooperate and throw tantrums. Once, a man with dementia smeared faeces all over himself and his bed.

"You must have patience and tell them not to get angry, that they have shelter here and someone to look after them," Ms Quek said.

But although the work can be tough, she finds that it helps time pass quicker.

"It depends on my health; but if I'm still okay, I can continue working," she said. "If I don't work, I'll be staying at home all by myself."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2017, with the headline 'At 81, she has been a nurse for almost all her life'. Print Edition | Subscribe